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Yoga helps shrink pain in joints

October 24, 2014

Read the full article from the Detroit Free Press here.

Experts say yoga, the breathing and meditation practice that dates to ancient India, and similar low-impact activities are the best antidote for pain and stiffness that can be the result of a lifetime’s worth of stress and grinding and gravity.

Estimates vary on how many Americans have joint pain, but it’s clear that it’s a growing problem as we live longer and, for many of us, live more actively both in work and play.

Last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention found that 22.7% of U.S. adults — 52.5 million people — have arthritis, a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders. Among the most common is osteoarthritis, a painful degenerative disease caused by wear and tear on bones and joints.

About 22.7 million of Americans said arthritis limits their daily activities.

“If we lived on the moon, we wouldn’t have arthritis. But with weight, it’s like a mortar and pestle on our joints,” said David Gilboe, a longtime physical therapist based in St. Clair Shores and a board member of the Arthritis Foundation.

Low-impact activities like yoga, tai chi, and pilates are especially helpful in fighting that aging process, according to a growing body of research.

That’s because exercise doesn’t just control weight, which, in turn lowers the pounds-per-square-inch pressure on joints.

The oxygen-rich blood throughout the body in exercise also helps slow loss in bone and muscle and cartilage. It strengthens muscles, tendons and ligaments, which, in turn, helps keep joints properly aligned and at less risk for injury.

It also promotes range of motion, a particular problem for those with arthritis.

And specifically with low-impact activities, all this happens “with less offense to damaged joints,” Gilboe said.

Plus, deep, controlled breathing lowers blood pressure and minimizes the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, and promotes the release of feel-good endorphins, he added.

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